Would you be willing to die for the Gospel?
That’s a question every Christian needs to ask themselves. And really, it should be a part of our discussions in Sunday school with our kids and everyone we evangelize. We aren’t just calling people to new life, we are calling people to die to self and be willing to die for the sake of others.
I think that’s an appropriate take away from the news of John Chau’s death. I’ve been thinking about John Chau almost non-stop since I heard about his death.
If you haven’t heard yet, a young man who had been praying about a specific unreached tribe on the North Sentinel Island in India, was killed as he went ashore with the hopes of bringing the Gospel to them.
The response has been all over the map. Some articles seemed to suggest that he was some guy on vacation who happened to hear about this unreached tribe so close to him, and decided to take a boat ride on shore despite being warned about the danger. Some articles who knew he had been working for quite some time to reach these specific people questioned his love for them because he was immorally exposing them to disease that would certainly kill them upon contact.
It has also sparked strong discussion about missionary work. Let’s just say this story has caused me to reflect. And I have come up with a few lessons we can all learn from this event, while being mindful of the fact that we don’t have all the details yet.
1. We should be willing to die for the Gospel
John Chau was willing to die for the Gospel. You can criticize his strategy or his support system if you’d like, but he understood a very simple truth and that is “to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Souls are at stake, and sometimes, in order to reach them, some will die. Every single disciple willingly suffered harm and was willing to die for the Gospel. And we should too.
2. How will they hear unless we go?
By all accounts, India is angry with John Chau. In fact, they are so angry that they have arrested the seven people who helped him get to the tribe. By all accounts, this tribe has been in existence for a really long time without ever having contact with the outside world. India seems to be not only comfortable with this, but outlawing any contact with the tribe.
As comfortable as they were with this, John wasn’t, and he decided that it was worth his life to go and try to talk to them. We know that whether they hear or not, it doesn’t change their destination. But we need to realize that this is just a stark reminder that God reaches people through ordinary people like me and you who are willing to go and tell people who haven’t heard.
3. We need the church
All the information isn’t out yet, but I sure hope John Chau’s family attends a church that will help shepherd them through this time. I’m sure this was true about him, but I would add that this is a reminder about the importance of each missionary having a strong sending church. Many missionaries give up great paying careers, the comforts of family and friends, and living in first world countries for the sake of reaching the lost. They are in absolute need of sending churches and elders to help shepherd them through decisions. They are in desperate need of fellow believers’ prayers. Whether you are a campus minister, a foreign missionary, or a street evangelist, you’re a fool if you don’t align yourself with a local church and submit to their leadership. You literally cannot live without it.
4. We need teams
Again we don’t know if John had a team, but it is safe to say that teams are essential at least for the average Joe. There are missionary accounts where folks went alone and succeeded, but that is rare and takes a special type of person and family to accomplish. We need others in our lives in order to encourage us, confront us, and keep us accountable. We need people with different skill sets to work with us and to help us in areas that we may struggle in. I don’t know what John’s long-term strategy was, but this is a stark reminder that we need someone with us who is willing to die for the Gospel and die for each other.
5. We don’t need to listen to the world
The world can’t understand. Even if you explain it to them slowly and as clearly as you can, all they hear is utter foolishness. The Gospel itself is foolish to the ears of the perishing as the Bible tells us (1 Cor. 1:18). No church or ministry should get any advice from the world, and yet it seems to be a trend these days. Cultural wars abound, and it seems to me that many churches and individuals are very interested in what the world thinks. The worlds reaction to this story is a helpful reminder that the world simply can’t understand, and to take our cues from them is the thing that is actually foolish.
6. People willing to die are hard to come by
I’m just shocked by the outrage by not only unbelievers, but some believers as well. I’m sure I have disagreements with Chau on his theology, but I do appreciate his seeming love for the Gospel and the lost. Simply put, there aren’t that many Christians willing to risk everything for Christ. Sure, I do believe that most Christians with a gun to their head would pledge allegiance to Jesus, but sadly, it takes a lot to move us out of our comfort zone. You can criticize John Chau all you want, but I pray that we are willing to get out of our comfort zone for the sake of the lost.
7. We need to support missionaries
Missionaries need our support. Of course, if everyone goes then no one can be supported to go. Some of us who would like to go have to stay back. But our money can go a long way. The best way you can use your money is to give it to a church that is serious about Gospel work. They demonstrate it by trying to reach their own neighbors and by sending missionaries to other countries. The next thing you can do is find a couple of missionaries who you’re excited about and faithfully give to them. That’s an investment that keeps giving dividends for eternity.
8. We need to pray for missionaries
Missionaries are at constant risk. The devil and his angels hate them especially, and want them to fail. He targets their families and marriages, their health and their bodies, their finances and their emotions. They are in constant need of prayer. They are making decisions that really could affect entire nations. It is important that everyone reading this has a missionary that they are praying for on a consistent basis.
9. We need loads of training
Not going to hard mission fields is not an option. We must go, but we must strategize. We need to be ready. We need teams and we need training. It isn’t an option to just pack up and leave. We must train. Doctors train years before they ever do their first surgery. Lawyers train for years before they ever stand before a jury. In an even more serious way, missionaries must train for years to prepare for the mission field. Seminary is not an option for those who seek to bring the Gospel to other countries. At the very least, one of the members of the team must be seminary trained in order to be ready to start a church. It’s not enough to have a few verses and songs memorized–that’s enough to have a gospel conversation, but not enough to start a church.
10. We need to be willing to die for the Gospel
Have I said this yet? All jokes aside, this is a non-negotiable of the Christian life. I hope I’m not shocking you. John 15:20-21 is clear:
“Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me.”
Even though we may disagree with his approach or theology, John Chau reminds us of an important truth. A slave is not greater than his master